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Ditch the Dryer Sheets!

 

Alex head shot

Alex Scranton

Director of Science
and Research

Mmm, the fresh scent of laundry that’s been dried with dryer sheets.

Wait a minute – how do dryer sheets DO that?

Unfortunately, dryer sheets can contain some harmful chemicals – including hidden fragrance chemicals that lots of people are sensitive to – that vent off into the air we breath and rub off on our clothes and then onto our skin. Yikes! And the kicker is that dryer sheets aren’t even necessary to our laundry – so they’re just an extra source of exposure to toxic chemicals.

Take the Ditch the Dryer Sheets Pledge to go dryer-sheet-free and reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals!

Women have tons of consumer power when it comes to demanding safe products. We make almost 85% of consumer decisions in the average home. This means that companies pay a LOT of attention to what we buy – and what we don’t buy. When we band together to stop buying a toxic product, we can have a huge impact on making the marketplace that much safer.

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What’s the alternative to toxic dryer sheets? You guessed it: wool balls! (Okay, maybe you didn’t guess that.) Dryer balls don’t contain toxic chemicals, they last for thousands of loads, get rid of static cling and wrinkles, soften clothes, and they actually save time and energy by cutting down on drying time.

The Problem with Dryer Sheets

What are dryer sheets made of, anyway?

Dryer sheets are relatively simple products, generally made of a polyester sheet that’s been covered in a fabric softener chemical and – usually – fragrance chemicals. The amount of fragrance used in dryer sheets can be significant, representing up to 10% of the contents of the product! These chemicals rub off the dryer sheet and coat your clothing in a slimy layer that has the effect of making your clothes feel softer.

Whoa, whoa, whoa – are these chemicals toxic?!

Recent tests of chemicals emitted from dryer sheets indicate the following chemicals are commonly emitted from popular dryer sheets. Many of these chemicals can also be found in the air emissions from dryer vents. Some of these chemicals are linked to serious health problems:

Fragrance chemicals: Fragrances can include tens to hundreds of different chemicals, some of which are toxic, and many of which are known allergens, like limonene and linalool. ALL fragrance chemicals are usually kept secret from consumers.

Volatile organic compounds like acetaldehyde, and butane, which can cause respiratory irritation.

Quats: The fabric softener chemical is often part of a family of chemicals called quaternary ammonium compounds, many of which are linked to asthma.

Acetone: can cause nervous system effects like headaches or dizziness.

Not surprisingly, when asked, survey respondents frequently report adverse health effects from exposure to dryer vents. One study found nearly 11% of the respondents reported irritation from exposure to emissions from dryer vents vented outside. Nearly 40% of respondents who indicated that they were “chemically sensitive” reported irritation from dryer vent emissions.

So dryer sheets are unsustainable and unnecessary, too?

Dryer sheets are single-use – which means that we’re throwing them away after each round of laundry!

Chemicals from dryer sheets can build up and clog your dryer’s lint screen, making your dryer a lot less efficient.

In addition, dryer sheets are totally unnecessary for actually making our clothes cleaner – we don’t really need them, and so they’re an easily-preventable source of exposure to toxic chemicals!

The Solution

Take the Ditch the Dryer Sheets pledge to reduce your exposure to unnecessary toxic chemicals – and you’ll also be reducing others’ exposure by ensuring that these chemicals aren’t being emitted from your dryer vents!

Exercise your consumer power: Join women all over the country in taking the Ditch the Dryer Sheets pledge. This is one unnecessary, toxic product that you can feel good about not spending your money on.

Alternatives to dryer sheets:

  • Throw an old sweater in with your laundry to decrease drying time and reduce static.
April 4, 2013

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Comments

I see the comments re: aluminum foil to reduce static, but the dryer balls really reduce the wrinkles and the towels and cloth diapers come out so soft!! Try the wool balls with the aluminum. The aluminum breaks off after just a few cycles so watch the pieces getting stuck in your lint trap.

I just create a baseball sized ball of aluminum foil and put that in the dryer. Lasts for a year. And you can just wash used pieces to create the ball.

I haven’t used them for years and have a mission to have many others do the same. Since Norwex, the company I am an Independent Sales consultant with, sells dryer balls and their mission is to improve our quality of life by reducing the amount of harmful chemicals in our home, I get to share with 5-40 people/week how harmful/unnecessary dryer sheets are! The word is getting out!

You might check out wool dryer balls made with US wool and made in the US…there are quite a few!

Thank you for the excellent post. I have not used laundry detergent, fabric softener, or dryer sheets since I learned about their toxicity several years ago (Instead, I use soap nuts in my washing machine). I am very concerned about the health and environmental impacts of these toxic laundry products. It is terribly unfortunate that one cannot even enjoy a walk through one’s neighbourhood without being exposed to a toxic cocktail of heavily scented air. I am often forced to close my windows during the summer due to the toxic dryer sheet scents which waft in. This is a huge health and environmental issue that far too few people know anything about! Thank you, Alexandra Scranton, for helping to spread the word. You have inspired me to spread the word in my own community!

“In addition, dryer sheets are totally unnecessary for actually making our clothes cleaner . . .”

They aren’t supposed to make clothes cleaner. Their purpose is to
1) prevent static
2) soften
3) provide fragrance

I live in a condo and the dryer vent is right by my bedroom window. My whole house fills up with my neighbors dryer sheets. I am so sick from the smell! I was sleeping and it woke me up…I couldn’t breath. What can I do? How can I solve this? People that smell this all the time can’t even smell it! HELP

We haven’t been using dyer sheets or fabric softener ,we use those plastic dryer balls, the sames ones for ten years now. we put vinegar in the fabric softener to rinse the residue of detergent.

I have never heard of wool dryer balls either! But we were just having a discussion about dryer sheets because I stopped using them long ago…and we just live with the static. Turns out, it bothers some members of the family more than others. I will give the wool balls a try now, thanks for the tip Alex! Now that it is getting warm again, a lot of our clothes get dried on the clothesline. And those don’t get any static at all – just a little crisp!

As for wool allergies, most folks should be fine with using wool balls in the dryer. There is no lanolin in the balls, as it has all been washed out. And there is almost no shedding of wool from the balls onto the clothes in the dryer. (Any shedding would likely get trapped in your dryer’s lint trap anyway.) But if you are extremely sensitive to wool – and think you may react simply from briefly handling the wool balls, then you might look for an alternative. There are other dryer balls out there – unfortunately most seem to be made of PVC plastic – not a good idea to use in a hot dryer. Some folks have also tried tennis balls – but they can also give off a chemical smell in the heat. White vinegar in your washer can be an effective fabric softener (but wont affect your drying time in the dryer!) Thanks

I use borax in my wash with detergent and don’t need dryer sheets. Occasionally use 7th Generation softener in the rinse but NO dryer sheets.

I make my own laundry soap (pretty easy, castile soap bar in the food processor, add equal amounts of borax and washing soda), white vinegar in the rinse dispenser, balls of aluminum foil in the dryer along with the rubber bouncy balls, and a microfiber cloth or washcloth with a few drops of lavender on it if I want smell in the dryer. Pretty simple, no toxic chemicals.

I haven’t used dryer sheets or fabric softener in a long time. Vinegar in the wash helps some with static and its s great natural disinfectant. We are 100% scent and chemical free due to environmental illness but the truth is everyone should be getting rid of all the scents. Toxic and killing our planet!!!

Hey Lara! The wool balls are awesome – hope they work for you too. Thanks for spreading the word about our pledge!
Alex

white vinegar works too.

Just bought the Woolzie balls! Can’t wait to try them out. It’s a double bonus–I save energy (and $$) and reduce my exposure to toxic chemicals!

threw the box of dryer sheets out. wish i had known about this a log time ago.thank you for the information.

I would love to try these wool balls. Please tell me where I can purchase. I have multiple chemical sensitivies and have a neighbor who uses fabric softener sheets. It is amazing how fragrant the air around my house is and my neighbor lives not so close. Needless to say, I can’t go out when her dryer is running. I tried to go to take the pledge, but the site is down. Many thanks, Sharon

Many people are also allergic to the natural fabric softeners, and often natural products still include fragrance, unfortunately.

Thank you for this post – happy to take the pledge!

I’m allergic to wool. Do you have any other suggestions for an alternative to dryer sheets? I noticed you mention and old sweater but I assume you mean wool for that one too.
thanks,
jo

Never heard of wool dryer balls! I’ve been using Seventh Generation fabric softener instead of dryer sheets, but even that creates more waste with the bottle and seems it would be more costly over time. Looking forward to trying these Wool Dryer Balls and will spread the word of your pledge challenge. Thank you! =)

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